Friday, March 7, 2014

Eating Right for Post-Workout Recovery

As rewarding as your workout may be, it is important to remember that your muscles only grow stronger through acute injury and recuperation. The pain you feel as you are cooling down is the result of torn cells, metabolic waste and the buildup of lactic acid; never forget that your training damages your body’s tissue in the short term in order to reap long-term rewards. While all of this results in a stronger, better you, you should treat the downtime between workout sessions for what it is: recovery from injury.

The cornerstone of your post-workout recovery should consist of a diet that replenishes what your body has lost and fuels the healing process. Help your body heal itself naturally by replenishing water and electrolytes, and consuming the carbohydrates and protein that your body needs to rebuild.

While you may avoid sodium in your day-to-day diet, sodium-rich foods are an excellent way to replace the electrolytes that you have lost through sweat. Potassium, calcium and magnesium rich foods will also help with this process, so load up on fresh fruit, greens, beans and nuts. Within 15 minutes to an hour after an intense workout, you should also consume carbohydrates to replenish your body’s glycogen stores. Avoid sugary exercise bars and drinks, and focus on fresh fruit as your primary source of carbohydrates.

Amino acids are the primary building blocks your body needs to replace, repair and improve your damaged muscle tissue. As with carbohydrates, you should eat a protein rich snack within an hour of finishing your workout routine. Peanut butter, eggs, hummus, yogurt, whole wheat and white meat are excellent sources of amino acids, but beware of sugar-laden protein shakes.

Replenishing and rebuilding are not the only areas of concern after a workout. Intense exercise, particularly overtraining, can impair your immune system for hours after your workout is complete. Keep your immune system strong with vitamin C, zinc and probiotics. You may even want to consider making a probiotic supplement part of your regimen. Not only will probiotics help bolster your immune system, but they will also help your body quickly and efficiently digest and process the food that you are eating for recovery.